Macaw Bonding

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Q: I have heard a lot about the strong pair bonding between macaws. Many people say that they pair for life. Is this true? If so, then what happens when one dies? Does the surviving mate spend the rest of its life alone? If a female is not laying fertile eggs, is there a way you can get her to accept a new mate?

A: The pair bonding between macaws is very strong indeed. They also appear to form bonds that are of lifetime strength. They are, however, no better than humans at these lifetime commitments.

If you have a bird that has lost its mate, it will usually accept a replacement after the loneliness has taken hold. That’s not to say that it will accept just any old bird as a replacement. The new mate must meet up to its standards.

As far as switching a bird mate is concerned, it has been done for years by professional breeders. First, we take the pairs that we wish to split up out of the breeding area. We then place each of the birds in separate cages. We arrange the cages so that the birds cannot see each other. After about a week, we pair the birds with their new mates in neutral cages (neutral cages being any cage to which neither bird feels a territorial claim). We still make sure that they cannot see their old mates. As far as the old mates calling to each other is concerned, after a week’s separation, it does not seem to matter. It becomes a true case of “out of sight, out of mind.”